Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Natural Artist Sangay Tshering

I saw a few wooden showpieces at my wife's cousin's. I assumed they were imported souvenirs and didn't even spare another glance. Only this weekend, on my second visit, upon seeing a half finished woodwork on his bedside I realised it was his own artworks. Knowing that I was interested he showed me endless pieces of works he had done over the year.

Sangay Tshering didn't have any form of training in art and design. He had a natural fascination for collecting differently-shaped wood pieces and converting them into artworks without altering the original form of the wood. I don't know if his form of art has a specific name; it's like partnering with the natural forces to create art.

Lovemaking 
Any piece of wood with a strange shape, be it roots, trunk, branches or driftwoods, would become Sangay's canvas. He would observe the natural shape of the wood and simply polish out the subtle natural art into a distinct form. He has even experimented with bones, horn and fish skull. He has worked with pieces as small as a finger to as large as a bull. He could pick a huge piece of driftwood and convert that into a state of art writing table or TV stand, he has done that for friends.

Following are some of his artworks:
"Education is the most powerful weapon"



A Mask Dancer

Divine Boot, done from half wood and half bone

Conch 

The Lady

"Say no to drugs"

 Here is the humble artist who doesn't even consider himself as an artist. Sangay Tshering has done hundreds of pieces of artworks and left them in places where he worked. He has never considered selling his artworks or doing an exhibition, in fact he hasn't signed his name on any of his pieces. He was just doing it for the sake of doing it, like a daily ritual without any ambition.

The Humble Artist Sangay Tshering
But I feel his unique talent deserves to be showcased so that his daily ritual could tell tales and inspire people and even draw new artists in his form of art. If you find his works special help me in telling him that he is a great artist. He can work on larger than life art pieces for hotels and art collectors, just dare him!

The First Blogger Conference

The Blogger Conference finally happened, yes formally on August 30, 2015. It was covered by BBS and Kuensel, you see it had to be formal to be covered. We have had several Bloggers' Meets in the past, once we had 35 people attending but since it was very informal it seemed like it didn't happen. But those were the founding moments, we drafted and polished the ideas. Lucky for us we had designer, artist, event manager, everyone among us who were willing to do everything for the evolving group we called Community of Bhutan Bloggers. 

Now that we have taken the first unsure step and enjoyed it, we are looking forward to many events. My friend Nawang Phuntsho gave the opening remark and managed the conference. First, we launched the mobile app we promised, in very casual way as I liked it to be. Not many realised we actually launched it. Thanks to my friend and friend to Bhutan, Boaz for delivering it, just like that. Anyone else would have taken fortunes out of this penniless community. 

We had four speakers who were given to speak for half an hour each, but they all overshot their time. But because of the variety in the topics we enjoyed each minute of their talks. Opening speaker Riku Dhan Subba took us on a journey back to his rural roots. His father owned the first radio in the village  and soon the radio brought his parents together and he was born under a tree... it was inspiring to listen to a young man who would visit his village in Chuzaygang five times a year, walking the talk.

Riku
Second speaker, Member of Parliament in the National Council from Gasa Dzongkhag, Dasho Sangay Khandu educated the bloggers on the functions of the parliament, unique powers of the two houses, laws and bylaws of the parliament, roles of MPs, parliamentary committees, decision-making in the parliament, quorum of decision, voting, bills, legislative cycle, etc that each blogger must be informed.

MP, Dasho Sangay Khandu
Third Speaker, Ugyen Lhendup amazed us with his research findings on Poverty and Inequality in Bhutan. Besides igniting lots of discussion on the subject he also made us rethink on a very important historical date, i.e. The First Five Year Plan, which we all know, was initiated in 1961 but Ugyen had found documents to prove that it actually began in 1953.

Ugyen Lhendup
The fourth speaker, Tshering Dolkar led us through her humble writing journey which began with scribbling in random papers to publishing in Kuensel's literary corner. Hers was a pure joy of writing without any desire to publish. He blog soon gave her a newer platform to nurture her passion for writing. She was almost flying when she read her smooth poems, written in formats that are Japanese, Korean and Chinese.
Tshering Dolkar 
The conference was planned to last till 1pm in the afternoon so I had requested for only one round of refreshment from our host Namseling Boutique Hotel but soon we realised our blunder and shamelessly asked requested for another round of refreshment. It was 3pm when we finally forced ourselves to end the conference and go looking for lunch. Our host hotel was ready to sponsor us lunch had we informed them earlier but it was our first time and we made a big miscalculation. 30 people attended the conference but eight of them had disappeared by the time we lined up for the photo session.

The organising team Nawang Phuntsho, Tharchen, Rekha Monger, Nima Dorji, Che Dorji and I would like to thank iBest Institution and Namseling Boutique Hotel for the unconditional support provided to the underdog community. We were overwhelmed by the turnout and the energy they brought along. We are encouraged to go bigger with he next conference... 

Photo Courtesy: Nima Dorji (All four speakers) and Ugyen Lhendup (Group Picture)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sanja Dema's Husband

The context of this post is the communal joke that was widely circulated on the badly abused social media platform WeChat. Yes WeChat has been already used as the Launchpad for three worst things to happen in Bhutanese social media; leaking private movie clips, spreading hoax, and sharing communal joke. All resulted in social disharmony that is very new to Bhutan.

Well, the joke was a voice recording of two men allegedly from Haa talking about a woman named Sanja Dem who married a guy from eastern Bhutan. Their conversation roughly translates to,
“Sanja Dem is married!”
“Really, who is the man?”
“He is a Sharchop.”
“O’ then he will steal nyah.”

I am from Haa and I know the men whose voice were recorded weren’t from Haa, as is evident from the fake accent they used. They were making fun of our language. Worse still, they impersonated us to insult Sharchops by calling them thieves. With all my sense of humor I am trying to laugh at the joke but somehow the intention in this joke seems seriously wrong.

I heard the joke before and back then Sanja Dem’s husband wasn’t a sharchop, he was a gatey (ex-monk) but the character in the joke was suddenly changed to a shashop to supposedly do maximum damage. This seemingly dry joke could lead to social disharmony and therefore such communal jokes of disastrous potential should be stopped right away.

We must appreciate our unity as harmonious little society. Many countries suffered because of communal division leading to mistrust among people, igniting riots and starting civil wars. We need not learn the lesson in a hard way; history is a good teacher. We should not take our harmony for granted just because we didn't earn it ourselves. It's the greatest gift of the Wangchuck dynasty that we must honour.
“Such clips are communal in nature and much more severe than the circulation of pornographic materials, We can book them under the National Security Act as its highly objectionable.” - Police Chief, Brigadier Kipchu Namgyal, in Kuensel 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Life is too Short to Wait for an Abusive Husband to Change

Yesterday by the time I reached home I was ready for a nap because it was a long day at the training centre followed by the long walk back home but I saw my neighbour has taken all their furniture out. I thought the young couple was moving out. Upon inquiry I found out that only the wife was moving out. It sent a chill down my spine because just there months ago I saw them happily moving in together.

She reported that she was assaulted many times, she was almost crying when she said, "Yesterday, he nearly killed me. I cried for help, didn't you hear me?" She showed her bruised body. We sincere apologised for being such a bad neighbour. We assumed that as a newly wed couple they would still be making love. Literally. We misunderstood those late night screams and banging on the wall.

My wife and I uncomfortably helped the wife load her stuff on the pickup along with the three individuals who were related to the young woman. And without a second thought we prepared refreshment for them. 

As I was serving them refreshment I couldn't help saying this to the wife, "We are sorry for not being there to celebrate your marriage but at least we are happy to be here helping you when you chose your freedom out of the abusive relationship." My wife signalled at me to shut up but I went on, "Why didn't you report to the police?" I just wanted the man to hear it. He was actually a good looking man who had a meek smile perpetually fixed on his lips, quite a contrast to his violent nature.

I didn't know who was right or who was wrong, I didn't even ask why they fought at all. The fact that the man has assaulted the woman broke my heart. Who the hell will protect her if the very man on her bed is assaulting her? I could never understand how one could abuse the very person one has chosen out of everybody on earth.

But I was throughly awed by the young woman's courage to walk out of the abusive relationship right away. I have known many women who hung onto their marriages hoping their men would change but the truth is if you don't walk out on the first slap you are just waiting for the next hundred slaps. It's normal to fight in relationships but violence should never be tolerated. Life is too short to wait for an abusive husband to change and it's too personal to worry about public opinions. 

Disclaimer: This post is based on an incident and therefore the focus is on husband being abusive but it can be the other way round too, though not discussed here. 

Following is a story from Miguelon Dell Call about a woman who hung on to her abusive husband. It's widely shared on Facebook.

She's got flowers!

It wasn't her birthday or any other special day.They had their first fight, and he said many cruel things that really hurt her.She knows that he is sorry and that he would not say those things again, because he sent her flowers.

She received flowers again!It was not for their anniversary or any other special day.Last night, he pushed her against a wall and started to choke her.It seemed like a nightmare, she couldn't believe it was real.
When she woke the next morning her body was painful and bruised.
She knows that he must be sorry, because he sent her flowers to forgive.

She received flowers yet again!And this was not mother's day or any other special day.Once again, he has beaten her, it was much more violent than other times.
If she leaves, what would she do?How would she care for her children?
And financial problems?She is afraid of him, but is scared to go.
And she knows that he must be sorry because, as usual, he sent her flowers to forgive.

Today, was a very special day!
She have received piles of bouquets of flowers from all those who knew her and who loved her!It was her funeral.
Last night, he finally killed her. He beat her to death.
If only She had found enough courage to leave,
She would have not received so many flowers today!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My Favourite Mushroom

I couldn't gather the english name of my favourite mushroom despite trying two very authentic mushroom websites. In Haa we call it Chenpo Shamo, literally translating to Liver Mushroom. The local name apparently is derived from the size, color and taste because the mushroom looks and taste like one. However it has sharp odour, which many people won't find pleasant. Perhaps that's why it's not very popular though it's said to have high medicinal values. 

If you are an amateur mushroom picker you wouldn't spare a second glance at it because it's huge, ugly and stinky but if I saw it I would dance three time in extreme joy. 
Chenpo Shamo from Home
My love for this mushroom is inherited from my mother among many. When I go home in summers her grandest way of welcoming me is by keeping stock of this mushroom. Nice neighbours would bring along some when they get it knowing how much we love it. 

This summer my mother wasn't very lucky with this mushroom but she has managed to barter two pieces with the neighbour and sent it to me. It was packed in a carton box and as I opened it the scent filled my room. It thrilled me. It was kind of scent that evoked so many memories from village, like certain music does. Recently my cousin visited me from village and even she brought me few pieces. I have sliced it and sun dried it for future consumption. Because this mushroom comes back alive when soaked in water. 

There are various recipes you can try with this mushroom but nothing beats ezay
Roast the mushroom lightly, 
Slice it into thin pieces, 
Add chilli powder and finish it with few pinches of thingay

If that bitterish liverly taste don't knock you down, tell me! 
Chenpo Shamo Ezay

Earthquake Hoax

མིང་ངན་གྱིས་ཡུལ་དཀྲོགས།། བྱ་ངན་གྱིས་གདངས་དཀྲོགས།།

My mother and I were in constant conversation over the phone debating on the hoaxed earthquake. She heard that it was going to be bigger than the Nepal earthquake and since our house was in bad shape from the last earthquake she has decided to abandon it and sleep in the kitchen garden instead. She saw the people in neighbouring villages pitching tents in their fields. The hoax has created such mass panic in rural areas. 

I told my mother that if His Holiness the Je Khenpo really had a vision of such a natural calamity befalling his people, more than anybody, his compassionate self would inform the nation and not some fool on WeChat.

I asked her, "Would the government leave us in the dark instead of evacuating us to safety?"
"Would I let you stay in that unsafe house all by yourself?" 
"How could you believe some random people and not me?" 
It was hard but I could convince her like I have done several times in the past. This wasn't the first wave of fear that swept across my village

The magnitude of fear and panic the hoax has created among our rural population is beyond forgivable limit. It has gone deep into the simple lives of people and disturb their peace. What do people get from doing this? Who are they? It cannot be one person but a chain of ignorant people who believed in it themselves and then shared their fear. It is a very serious offence and I hope theses people will be traced and punished. 


And more than anything we need to find a permanent solution to this repetitive problem of mass panic created by hoax, because if a salt shortage hoax could cause market to inflate salt price and people to hoard salt then anything is possible. 

The mobile app WeChat, which took internet access to rural population has now become a platform for newer evils, from sharing porn to racial jokes to hoax. With its ease of use and reach new hoaxes can do massive damage. What will be the next bad thing people will do on this platform? 


Entitlement

A few years ago I underwent a training in Paro with an Indian company. Some forty teachers were getting trained to be trainers. On the last day of the ten-day training as we were listening to closing speeches, our Bhutanese managers handed us the TADA bill. Our usual entitlements were Nu.500 daily allowance and Nu.14 per km travel allowance but since it was a 'training' some experienced mates told us that we were entitled to Nu.1000 per day. 

While it looked very normal to us, our Indian counterparts watched us in amazement as we claimed out allowances. They told us that in India and elsewhere to get a certified training like that we would have to pay heavy fees. They were throughly surprised that we get paid instead after ten days of training, free notepads, free files, free pens, endless handouts and heavy lunch.

I was as surprised as they were at the discovery because for us in Bhutan workshops and training were our sources of extra income and if we weren't paid we would not have people wanting to attend.

But last Sunday I was up for a surprise; when Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy(BCMD) announced a Professional Skills Workshop (geared towards helping CSO employees overcome their professional challenges) over 30 people signed up. Unlike our usual workshops this one asked for Nu.250 fees. It was to cover the cost of our refreshments and materials. The training itself was still free but looking at the nature  of all the other workshops in the country I didn't expect this to work.

At least half of the people who signed up actually attended the half day workshop with Mr. Sujeev Shakya, CEO of beed management and Chair of the Nepal Economic Forum. It was my first paid workshop and I felt a certain sense of satisfaction. Every minute with Sujeev paid off and for the first time I took home knowledge as entitlement.

The Attendance 

Date: Sunday 23rd AugustTime: 9:00 amVenue: The Media Lab, YDFFee: Nu. 250 (*This fee will cover the cost of your refreshments and materials)


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Plastic Won't Be a Problem in Bhutan

In school we were told plastic was among the worst things that could pollute our environment because it would not disintegrate in 800 years, ok, just say forever. It means that the very first batch of plastic mankind produced, which was in 1862, hasn't yet disappeared and in last many year god knows how much more plastic the world would have produced. Imagine if Zhabdrung had thrown a plastic bag in a field in Punakha it would still be there. But don't worry there wasn't plastic during Zhabdrung's time.

From 1862 to 1970, plastic was seen as a magical material that could be crafted into variety of shapes and substitute precious natural substances like tortoiseshell, ivory, horn, and linen. The revolutionary discovery gained the reputation of being the saviour and protector of natural environment because it drastically reduced on the hunting of elephant and tortoise.

It was the beginning of material abundance that helped people gain access to affordable essential resources when inexpensive plastic replaced the scarce natural resources. Things became cheaper, lighter, safer and stronger. The development of computer, cellphone, and all the advanced technology was made possible by plastic, including electricity and transportation. It raise the living standard of people.

Suddenly in 1970s world woke up and made the once saviour of the natural world into the terror of the natural world. It wasn't the plastic that changed its property suddenly in 1970s. It's like the common Bhutanese saying about how even mother's breast milk can be poisonous if over-consumed. Human beings began using plastic in everything and everywhere without considering where it would land up at the end.

Plastic clogs drainage systems and flood cities, it overwhelms landfills and leach out dangerous chemicals that are threats to lives, in river system it can endanger aquatic lives, it will soon invade our agricultural fields make them infertile, and at the end it will take away our forest. But remember plastic doesn't go there on their own, it's us who ill-manage it. Plastic is a Frankenstein and we are being very insensitive with it.

But in Bhutan we have our smallness on our side, today it may seem like we have plastic problem but if you have observed carefully, one moment you see lots of plastic bottles thrown around and next moment it's gone. It's just a matter of one good solution, because plastic is a magical element. My little niece Bumchu won't leave any plastic pottle at home or in our cars, because her school has the practice of collecting and selling plastic waste to Greener Way.

Now Greener Way has a local market in The Green Road right in Thimphu, where a young entrepreneur, Rikesh Gurung, with the technical capacity and legal right in executing the revolutionary idea of using plastic in blacktopping roads has opened shop. "The technology involves coating of aggregate with molten waste plastic before it is mixed with bitumen. Besides being an effective solution to plastic waste menace, it brings down considerably the cost of laying roads and enhances their life."-The Hindu
Thimphu alone produces 50 tonnes of plastic waste daily and the landfill has over 200,000 tonnes of plastic, says the founder of The Green Road, which means he will have enough resources to make better and cheaper roads in the country, and he will not run out of his key ingredient. And the best part is plastic in Bhutan will not be a problem anymore.

But I'm surprised Rikesh's idea didn't receive red-carpet welcome in the country. If our concerns about plastic waste were genuine and all the headlines meant anything serious I would expect the government to hug the young man because his project can kill two cockroaches at one spank; better road and plastic management.

Interestingly before Rikesh could showcase his first task of blacktopping 30 meters road in Thimphu, another project made a headline. It's about a technology that will be setup at the landfill to convert plastic into crude oil. I am throughly confused now. Rikesh has multi-million plant setup and now another project is threatening to steal away his raw material, what is this all about? Do we have so much plastic waste to feed two big projects? While the rest of the world is suffocating in their plastic waste, it looks like we are going to face plastic waste scarcity. Anyway, it's good for us!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Honest Scooter

A brief story on this incident was earlier posted on my Facebook wall. 

A few days ago I witnessed a disheartening incident at the Changlam square in Thimphu. There was a group of high school girls who hurriedly gathered along the pavement, craned their necks across the road and began laughing at something seemingly very funny. I got curious and walked a few step to get their perspective. I thought they were looking at Phuba Thinley because he was capable of making people laugh on the street.

But just then I saw a young couple riding on an old Bajaj scooter and the girls continued laughing as they passed by. It looked like a typical scene from a movie- a snobbish gang of girls mocking at a poor newcomer in the school parking. The couple seemed to have noticed because they parked behind a car and didn't come out until the girls left.
My Friend Che Dorji sent me this picture to make his statement

I looked at the girls and wondered how it was possible for these young girls to reflect the same old school outlook we saw during our times. I thought their generation shunned this cheap social-status mentality but I felt so sorry to see the dark shadow of our generation cast over their innocent path. They forgot the Cinderella story already. They had
misplaced their values living in our hypocritical society.

For them the scooter was a joke. They couldn't see how unpretentiously the couple rode on what they could afford. They couldn't see the humility of the couple to ride a scooter among the big cars. They couldn't feel that perhaps it could be an honest scooter owned by a content family.

And perhaps they didn't know that laughter could be dangerous; the couple might go home and think of buying a car and to afford the car they will land up selling their happiness, and worse even their honesty and integrity. But I prayerfully hope this didn't happen.

It's not nice to laugh at anybody unless they are joking, but if children love laughing at all I recommend them to laugh at high profile thieves, con artists, and manipulators who have betrayed the king, country and the people. Their name list is with the ACC and many names have already been published in media. They may not be riding on Bajaj scooters but whatever they are driving is stolen.




Monday, August 10, 2015

From the Hospital Bed

Sitting on the stool next to the bed and sleeping on the bed itself are two completely different perspectives in life. I have been in the hospital one too many times, mostly to attend to the sick, sitting on the tall uncomfortable stool.

For a change in perspective, I have always wanted to look at life from the hospital bed once, like taking a vacation from life, but without much pain. I wanted to lie there without a worry in the world. I wanted to take along my laptop and edit my stories, write blogs and contemplate over life.

I know a time will come when I am there on the hospital bed never to return home, to wait for the ultimate end, in pain, without hope, and with only past to look back on. But like a trial run, right now, from the middle of my life and I wanted to do a midlife review when there's still hope, time and energy, so that I could change the way I live the gap between this first review and the final review of my life on earth.

There I was on the hospital bed without any pain and feeling a bit amused. I had an overdue surgery from years ago and this time I had my vacation to finally dare it. When I was admitted I carried my beddings and walked in. The security guard asked if I had a new admission. I said yes. Where? Here! Even he was amused.

My son Jigme, who was supposed to attend to me looked like a patient. He finished few packets of chips before collapsing on the next bed. The nurses were confused every time they came on rounds. In the morning he was the last person to rise. It was kind of a trial run for him too...

It was from 10 pm that things stopped being amusing because I was to start fasting. They started feeding me from my veins. I was experiencing all these for the first time; sleeping on hospital bed, getting an IV, fasting... thank god I had good experience as an attendant to understand whatever was going on. But I couldn't help wonder how a man could be fed from a pinhole on the skin, while throughout our lives we ran after satisfying our expandable mouth.

And the heartbreaking irony was seeing your friends and family come and fill your bedside with loads of edibles when all you could do was to switch your gaze between the IV bottle and the riches on the bedside table.

But to my disappointment I couldn't even open my laptop. It was going to look very rude not to be in pain when rest of your roommates were. It was going to look like another office day. Besides the inspiration you would have while siting on the stool won't come when you were lying on the bed. And soon my mouth parched for a sip of water. I knew if I stayed awake any longer I would land up drinking something and that would result in termination of my surgery. So there went my romantic ideas of writing on the hospital bed.

Next morning I was made to wear the green gown that showed my back to the world. I had to be very careful because my daughter was following me mischievously and I could trust her to embarrass me. I was like a curious science student wanting to see how things worked inside the operation theatre. But before long I was put to deep sleep, literally dead for the time being.

I was handed back to my family after three hours and the moment I heard their voices I made a subconscious attempt to show them Thumbs Up. I could feel them dragging my bed on a rough surface. It was hours later that I could ask for water but my wife would only wet my lips with few drops. I could feel my nostrils loaded and nose plastered. My daughter and niece found me like their cartoon character Oggy.

There after I could see people coming and going like in dreams and all I was thinking about was when would they remove the packing from my nostrils. I didn't want to remain awake and feel suffocated. I went on sleeping. Nurses came often to give me doses of medicine, which I didn't need a day ago. I was officially ill now. I needed support to sit up. I wished if I could pee in my bed. It's then I realised the real difference between sitting on the stool and lying on the bed.

After what seemed like ages, which was actually the next day, my nostrils were cleared but there was another hard plastic support which had to stay for another few days. I was discharged after that and here am I enjoying my third day of rest. My wife, sister and brother in-law are pampering me like a little child.

My nose hasn't resumed its job yet, my spine and neck are aching and I can't swallow solid food easily. But I hope these are prices I am paying for a better nose. I asked for it.

As for the bigger question on reflecting on life I realised that I don't need a hospital bed to take vacation from life. This one trial run is enough to make me realise that whatever I have to do must be rushed before I reach the hospital bed because the world in there has its own problem to solve.

P:S: Knowing it was a simple surgery I didn't want to bother anybody but many of you showed up and I must tell you it feels so good to see people when you are on hospital bed. I will always remember this. 

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